Protests against U.S. surveillance tactics ensued across the world last week after reports revealed that both the citizens and leaders of European countries were targets of the National Security Association’s anti-terror surveillance program.
It began with reports in various European publications based on releases made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is living in Russia after disclosing classified surveillance details to the press. Public outrage grew and other international newspapers began to reveal information on the NSA’s methods, including the monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
“The U.S. comes off looking egregious in all this,” Victor Rasho, a senior communications and media major at DePaul, said. “They move about as if the rules don’t apply to them, making us a bigger target to all potential enemies. This is the type of scandal that alienates us from countries whom despise us as it is, but more to our allies who rely on us to guide the world in a positive fashion.”
Many important figureheads have expressed dismay over the revelations regarding the NSA. When reports this past July revealed that the NSA spied on European Union (EU) diplomats, many leaders warned the United States that spying would affect good relations. French President Francois Hollande declared that this type of behavior is unacceptable from partners and allies, and he suggested that this scandal could harm negotiations for free trade with the EU.
“When something like this comes out, national leaders have to defend their countries,” political science professor Erik Tillman said. “It also creates the opportunity to score some political points at home.”
Leaders that are quick to declare that the United States has conducted crimes against humanity for spying on its allies could merely be using the situation to their advantage. In reality, however, it may not have been as much of a shock to them as they led people to believe.
“Everybody is kind of doing it,” Tillman said. “When friendly countries engage in industrial espionage, it isn’t really any sort of surprise.”
The White House responded to the scandal by saying it will conduct a review to address the concerns of U.S. allies. It will be due by the end of the year to ensure that both the security and privacy concerns of U.S. citizens and allies are protected. According to USA Today, President Obama, who apparently was unaware of the extent of the NSA’s programs in global affairs, stated that the review also sets out “to make sure that what they’re able to do doesn’t necessarily mean what they should be doing.”
Nevertheless, many members of Congress are becoming increasingly annoyed with the NSA’s lack of transparency and oversight, and see a need for the program to change.
“We did not know that heads of state were being eavesdropped on, spied on,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said, according to USA Today. “It’s a policy issue that has very broad implications and … we did not know that.”
Snowden also revealed last week that the NSA allegedly tapped into communication links that connect global Google and Yahoo data centers, The Washington Post reported.